I am not sure whether this is right, but Paul Krugman makes an interesting point. As the Senate has already passed its version of the bill, if the House passes the same version, there is no need for the two versions to be reconciled and the bill goes off to Barack Obama for a signature. Let’s hope that 1) that is right and 2) they do it. It also seems possible that a bill could be sent back to the Senate in the 15 days before the new Senator formally takes his seat.
(For anyone who doesn’t know what I am talking about, the Democrats today lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts that had been left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, robbing them of a super-majority in the Senate that allowed bills to be pushed through in the face of Republican opposition. Both chambers of the US Congress have passed a healthcare bill, but they are different — they both have to pass the same version for it to succeed).